Pack-bikes: a symbol of will in the Dien Bien Phu victory

Hong Vân
Chia sẻ
(VOVWORLD) - At the Dien Bien Phu Historical Victory Museum, visitors are introduced to artifacts that contributed to the global shaking Dien Bien Phu victory 70 years ago. One unique artifact is the legendary pack-bike that turned the tide.
Pack-bikes: a symbol of will in the Dien Bien Phu victory - ảnh 1Pack-bikes transport weapons and supplies to Dien Bien Phu front. (photo: VNA)

More than 20,000 pack-bikes were used during the Dien Bien Phu campaign to transport weapons and supplies along a steep trail 1,500 km long. They were the main, most effective means of transport at that time.

The pack-bikes, smaller, lighter, and more maneuverable than motor vehicles, were used to carry bulky goods over hills, mountains, and rivers. They were easy to repair and camouflage. They could operate in all weather conditions and required no fuel. Bicycles were often the only viable transportation option on narrow, zigzagging paths.

Thai Huu Hoanh of Company 292 of Youth Volunteer Team No. 34 spoke of his comrades: “I really admired them. They maneuvered heavily-load bikes with a full pack on either side and a third heavy load in the front. Going downhill, one or two people pulled from behind, and going uphill, they pushed the bike. They travelled at night, never during the day. They couldn't see each other but they pushed very hard. They were very resilient and brave.”

At first each pack-bike carried 80 to 100 kilograms. Later the loads were increased to as much as 200 kg. The pack-bikes were more efficient than people carrying the weight on their shoulders.

Thanks to the pack-bikes, the supply of food, drugs, and other essentials during the Dien Bien Phu campaign was never disrupted.

Tran Khoi, a bike-packer during the Dien Bien Phu campaign, said: “People from all the mountain provinces participated in transporting supplies, by ship, truck, or horse. We were determined to transport the goods as quickly as possible to ensure sufficient food for those on the battlefield.”

Pack-bikes: a symbol of will in the Dien Bien Phu victory - ảnh 2Militiamen and civilians transport goods to Dien Bien Phu front. (photo: VNA)

Despite frequent bombing by the enemy, people used pack-bikes, shoulder poles, horses, and rafts to transport weapons, food, medicine over hundreds of kilometers of high mountain trails to the battlefield.

Ma Van Thang of Phu Tho province set a record by transporting 350 kg in one trip. Cao Van Ty of Thanh Hoa province carried 320 kg. Civilian transporters brought more than 25,000 tons of weapons and food to the Dien Bien Phu front.

The French introduced the bicycle – a symbol of Western civilization – to Vietnam. After 100 years of colonial rule, the Vietnamese dramatically defeated the French army at Dien Bien Phu with the help of bicycles.

Colonel Dr. Vu Tang Bong, former Head of the Department of Military Logistics Technical History of the Vietnam Military History Institute, said: “The pack-bike is a symbol of Vietnamese will and determination. Pack-bikes defeated General Henri Eugène Navarre.”

Literature on the Dien Bien Phu campaign has described the pack-bike as a “miracle” in the history of war.

With the motto “All for the front, all to win”, civilian and militia transporters with their pack-bikes overcame numerous difficulties to transport a large amount of food to serve the Dien Bien Phu campaign, contributing to make the glorious Dien Bien Phu victory.